How Supermama Founder Edwin Low Overcame Obstacles to Grow a Unique Singaporean Brand
For Edwin Low, the leap from design lecturer to business owner required more than a few hail marys to keep design-centric lifestyle store Supermama from insolvency during its first few years of operations.
When the business began in 2010, its first month revenue was a demoralising $600. The second month fared a tad better, at just over $1,000.
“My design friends said I had gone to the ‘dark side’ when I first started the store, while my business friends said I made a lot of unwise decisions,” he recalls. “For example, there were some product designs that I knew were not going to sell, but they told a good story so I still produced them—a businessman wouldn’t do that.”
It took four years for Supermama, lovingly named after his wife, Lee Mei Ling, to eventually turn a profit. And today, the brand has managed to achieve what most only covet: a cult following of devotees who have embraced Supermama’s unique genre of contemporary ceramic products designed locally with a distinct Singaporean identity, yet made to the highest standards of traditional craftsmanship in Japan.
It was a marriage of culture and aesthetic the country had not seen, with Supermama collaborating with more than 100 designers and artists to date, and even snagging the President’s Design Award in 2013.
Soon, even Disney was knocking on its doors seeking a collaboration between the Star Wars franchise and the local brand. Six designs were sent directly to George Lucas for approval, each beautifully illustrated with iconic characters such as Yoda, R2D2 and Darth Vader seamlessly taking pride of place among Peranakan motifs for a uniquely Singaporean sensibility. The blue-and-white porcelain limited-edition series of 1,800 pieces was released just in time for the premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with the entire collection selling out in just two months in 2017.
In another galaxy not so far away we call 2020, Low is now using the opportunity that the Covid-19 crisis presents to transform the business “from a mom-and-pop operation” to a heritage brand with a lasting legacy.
“I took this time to clean up my business. I also looked at the merits of Supermama and asked myself what are the parts that were personal and could be taken out, and what are the parts that are strongly related to Singapore,” he says.
The result is Supermama’s very next collection launching this month: Singapore Blue. For this blue-and-white porcelain series, the brand is collaborating with 20 local artists and personalities such as chef Willin Low, regarded as the father of mod-Sin cuisine, and Han Li Guang, chef-owner of one‑Michelin-starred Labyrinth restaurant.
As part of the celebration of its 15th anniversary, Tatler Homes Singapore has also created a specially-designed plate with Supermama for the Singapore Blue collection.
(Related: Tatler Tours: Willin Low Takes You Around Kampong Glam | The Best Food, Activities And Spots)
Each collaborator will share their personal stories of the city, which Supermama will then translate into one of 20 designs in the collection, limited to a total of just 2,000 pieces. The next phase of the project will see Supermama cast its net further afield, inviting international artists to share their perspectives of Singapore.
“I always say that Supermama is a blank canvas for Singaporeans and artists to inject their own story,” says the 40-year-old father of three. If the past decade is anything to go by, this canvas created by Low, who goes by @superduperpapa on Instagram, will continue to make Singapore super duper proud.
- Photography Eric Seow/Beacon Pictures
- Photographer's Assistant Alfred Ng
- Styling Joey Tan
- Hair Delanie Wong-Bonnefoy using Keune Haircosmetics and Laura Mercier
- Make-Up Delanie Wong-Bonnefoy using Keune Haircosmetics and Laura Mercier
- Grooming Delanie Wong-Bonnefoy using Keune Haircosmetics and Laura Mercier